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Millions of dollars go missing from Afghan police trust fund

Millions of dollars are disappearing from the salaries of Afghanistan's police officers.
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 2, 2014.
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 2, 2014.

Millions of dollars set aside to pay Afghanistan’s police force are unaccounted for, and the UN agency in charge of those funds has been “disturbingly ambiguous” about where the money went, according to documents released by the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

In letters sent to the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, SIGAR head John Sopko pointed to “a string of irregularities” that raised serious concerns about corruption and mismanagement. Sopko also asked that the UNDP do more to make sure money was not being used to pay “ghost employees” or get funneled through fraudulent deductions to dishonest officials.

In one case, nearly $24 million was deducted from police salaries for a “pension deduction,” taken by the Afghan Ministry of Interior. But, said Sopko in a mid-September letter to two American generals in Afghanistan,  there is “very little confidence that UNDP is taking meaningful steps to address the problems of dubious deductions from [Afghan National Police (ANP)] salaries and payments to individuals who may not be reporting to work.”

The U.S. and other nations have donated more than $3 billion to the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, the fund that pays the nation’s police force. Helen Clark, the UNDP administrator, has argued that it is not the agency's job to conduct oversight of some of the programs administered through the trust fund.

The ANP has struggled to battle corruption in its ranks, and for several months last winter, officers were not paid due to what Afghan officials told The New York Times was simply an administrative issue.

The latest move by the Inspector General to get information about how reconstruction money is being spent shows again how much money has disappeared over the 13 years of war and attempts at reconstruction. Last month, another SIGAR inquiry looked at $6.5 million wasted on constructing communications towers despite ample evidence that the towers were a bad idea.

In total, the reconstruction effort has received nearly $104 billion dollars.

On September 30, the U.S. and Afghanistan signed the Bilateral Security Agreement, which will allow American troops to remain on the ground in Afghanistan for at least another ten years. A continuing U.S. troop presence will also guarantee that money will keep flowing into Afghanistan through development projects.